Three years out from taking the checkered flag as Pixar's big summer tent pole of 2011, the highly anticipated sequel "Cars 2" is entering the starting gate without one of the most iconic voices behind the original. Über-producer and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation John Lasseter revealed exclusively to MTV News that Paul Newman was unable to record any dialogue for the film before dying from cancer at his home in September.
"No," Lasseter said when asked if Newman was able to schedule a return as Doc Hudson, the former champion racecar turned small-town burgomaster, before his death. "It's been really sad because I had a great friendship with Paul, and he was so impressive to work with in 'Cars' - [he] really made that character. So I have fond, fond memories of him. Not only did he make a great character, but he became a great friend of mine too, so I'm gonna really miss him."
Speaking with MTV News from the "WALL-E" red carpet this past June, Lasseter said that the character of Doc Hudson was very much in the mix for the sequel, insisting, without a doubt, that the "character is coming back."
Given his earlier statement and the fact that "Cars 2" recently shifted its release from 2012 to summer 2011, it's somewhat odd, perhaps, that Lasseter now says it's "unclear" whether the character will be seen (or heard), confessing that they'll have to "see how the story goes with Doc Hudson."
Lasseter is adamant, however, that the decision will ultimately be beholden to story, and not tradition, confessing he's not averse to recasting the role with a sound-alike actor, similar to what the company decided to do with Slinky Dog, a character voiced by Jim Varney in "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" before the actor's death in 2000.
"In 'Toy Story 3,' for instance ... we found actually an old friend of [Varney's] who sounds an awful lot like him - another actor that's going to be doing that voice," Lasseter said of the character's return. "It'll be hard to replace Paul Newman, but we don't know yet."
"Cars" voice star George Carlin also died this year, in June. His character, Fillmore, was a much smaller role than Newman's. It is unclear if he will be replaced as well, or if Fillmore will simply be written out of the sequel.